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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published Weekly on Friday
This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men (and women) to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1Timothy 2:3-4)
Greetings everyone welcome back to HBS.
My first prayer for the group resembles one of our Apostle’s Paul persistent prayers for all the saints, “I pray you continue to grow in knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ to a mature man and woman, and may you shine the Light of Jesus Christ in the New Year!
Lessons Learned from Nature
Eagles are unique in many ways. No other bird can reach the height of an eagle. They fly alone at high altitudes instead of mingling with sparrows and other small birds because they’re often harassed by them in flight? Lesson: Eagles soar with eagles. Jesus prayed very early in the morning, while it was still dark. He got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place to be with His thoughts and the Father (Mark 1:35).
Eagles are known for their vision. They have the ability to focus on an object at a great distance. When an eagle locates his prey, he stays focused on it until it is captured no matter the obstacle. Lesson: know that God has a plan and a purpose for you, so remain focused on Him and His Word no matter the obstacle to experience success.
Eagles are not vultures. By that I mean they don’t eat dead things. They only feast on fresh prey. Lesson: steer clear of outdated (old) information. When you study God’s Word, rightly divided, observe carefully of whom, to whom, and why, when, and where it was written (thanks Bonnie). Learn from the things written in times past, but focus intently on Paul’s epistles because these are written to the Body of Christ.
Eagles do no fear storms. They know storms are coming long before they arrive. The eagle will perch in the top of a tree and let the wind from the storm carry them high above it. Once there the eagle rests its wings and becomes a glider empowered by those winds. Lesson: you can use the storms of life to rise to greater heights. We are strengthened by adversity, not weakened by it. Spiritual achievers do not fear challenges; they learn to profit from them.
Paul demonstrated eagle-like characteristics. He did not allow the difficulties in his life to get the better of him. Despite the numerous hardships he encountered his focus remained on the Lord and His cause. This resulted in the gospel being preached even though he was in chains. What’s more his brethren boldly followed suit to the praise and glory of God the Father (Philippians 4:22; Acts 9:15-16).
Please open your Bible at Philippians 1:12-14.
But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto (what) the furtherance of the gospel; So that my bonds (chains) in Christ are manifest (or shine the light of truth on something that had been previously kept secret) in all the palace, and in all other places; And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. (KJV)
Here Paul’s saying, even though people meant to cause him great harm, their evil deed actually became a blessing to many as the gospel of grace was manifested in all the palace and in all other places (in Rome itself). What’s more many of the brethren were “speaking the word without fear.” What word? Paul’s gospel (Romans 2:16; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
Even though dealing with adverse conditions and facing an uncertain future, Paul continued his ministry while chained to a Roman solider. Paul knew the Lord had a plan and purpose for him and he never lost sight of this truth. How do we know this? Look at verse 12: But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel (v12).
Paul wanted the saints in Philippi to know, even though he was in bonds (chains), God’s invitation of salvation wasn’t silenced, instead, His message continued to be preached unabated. In case you missed it, the words “which happened” are in italics which means they were added by the Bible translators. We should all understand nothing ever “just happens” to the true Believer. As I’ve stated multiple times to this group and others, I don’t believe in coincidence; I believe God is providentially controlling our lives as well as our circumstances.
I’ve heard comments to the contrary such as, “If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all,” or “I’m having a bad day,” “Stuff happens,” “I’m in a down cycle,” and “I can’t catch a break.” Each one of these comments, in effect, denies the doctrine of God’s providence. Divine providence is the governance of God by which He, with all wisdom and love, cares for and directs all things in the universe. This doctrine asserts God is in complete control of all His creation. He alone is sovereign over the whole universe (Psalm 103:19), the physical world (Matthew 5:45), the affairs of nations (Psalm 66:7), human destiny (Galatians 1:15), human success and failures (Luke 1:52), and the protection of His people (Psalm 4:8; John 10-28-29; Ephesians 1:13-14).
This doctrine confronts the common belief that the universe and people’s lives are governed by chance and/or fate. In this we also understand humans have “free will” or the ability to make choices but parallel to this truth we also know God is sovereign. It may be difficult for humans to reconcile these two truths; however, this is where one’s faith enters in. There’s nothing better than an example from scripture and there is a lot to choose from. I’ll start with Saul of Tarsus in Acts 8-9. He willfully persecuted the Jews who believed Jesus was the Christ, in effect, “kicking against the goads” (a stick used to prod an animal) of God’s providence:
And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying, in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutes thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks (goads) – Acts 26:14.
The word providence means foresight or foreknowledge. Biblically speaking, this term means “the wisdom and power which God continually exercises in the preservation of the world and its inhabitants.” Providence concerns God’s support, care, and supervision of all creation beginning with the Garden of Eden experience to the arrival of eternity future.
This truth is witnessed first and foremost in creation (Genesis 1:1). The Creator God (Jehovah a.k.a Jesus Christ) not only created all things seen and unseen all things consist by Him. Please turn in your Bible to Colossians chapter 2: Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things (do what) consist (Colossians 1:12-17).
Here we learn about the sovereignty of God who not only provides the very air we breathe and the nourishment for our bodies, he also provides the means for our salvation. God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth (sovereign), dwelleth not in temples made with hands, Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us (Acts 17:24-27).
Scientific telescopes reveal the universe hasn’t stopped growing, since the so-called “Big Bang” it continues to expand. Consider that for a moment and then please consider no one knows the number of galaxies, planets, or stars except for the Creator God. Not only that, not a single one is out of position. This planet we call home is spinning at over 1,000 mph at its equator, if its axis were suddenly shifted from the recognized norm, inertial forces produced in such a change would literally tear the earth apart. I pray this helps you to understand the significance of the biblical truth all things consist by the Lord Jesus Christ. He literally holds all things together. On a more personal level, this book reveals “God knows the number of hairs on every human head” (Luke 12:7), and the number of our days (Job 14:4; Psalm 139:16).
My favorite biblical personage in the O.T. is Joseph, the son of Jacob. He wasn’t having a “bad day” when his brothers chose to sell him into slavery instead of killing him (Genesis 37:1, 50:26). Joseph was right where the LORD God needed him to be “for such a time as this.” Because of his dutiful and faithful response to the LORD God’s love and mercy, the seed of Abraham was protected along with many other lives:
And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God? But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive. Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them (Genesis 50:19-21).
Here we see God’s providential hand working in and through Joseph for the common good. We must not overlook Joseph’s exercise of free will in all of this. Despite his harsh treatment, Joseph never lost his spiritual focus. God remained the “Main Thing.” Thus we recognize one’s faith as being instrumental in carrying out God’s will (Hebrews 11:6).
I could take y’all to numerous accounts throughout the O.T. where God used a pagan nation to discipline the nation of Israel, but I’d rather you take the time to look them up yourselves; it’s good exercise. From this we learn the Israelites were not “walking” faithfully with the LORD God, they ignored His warnings concerning false idols and false worship which resulted in them being spiritually trained not once or twice, but time and time again. Here we learn, once more, God intervenes in the affairs of men and women disciplining those He loves:
Ye have not resisted unto blood, striving against sin. And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scougeth every son whom he receiveth (Hebrews 12:4-6).
So, if you engage in pre-marital sex and become pregnant as a result this doesn’t mean “luck’s not on your side” it means “your sin has found you out.” God does not hold your trespass against you, but you’re faced with the cost of your sin.
Now let’s look at a Messianic Prophecy in Psalm chapter 2: 1-4:
Why do the heathen (Gentiles) rage, And the people (the Jews) imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, And the rulers take counsel together, Against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, And cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: The Lord shall have them in derision.
Here we see men plotting against the LORD’s anointed (Jesus Christ). However, this didn’t come as a surprise to God by any stretch of the imagination. Jesus Christ’s “luck didn’t run out” in the Garden of Gethsemane. The evil perpetrated on the Lord by the Gentiles and the Jews was a predetermined event. We learn this from the Apostle Peter in Acts chapter 2:
Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by (what) the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it (Acts 2:22-24).
Let’s examine one more. Shortly after Paul’s conversion we have this conversation between the risen Lord and Ananias, “But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15).
The Lord declared Paul will bear witness for Him in Rome: And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome (Acts 23:11).
But before Paul appears before Caesar in Rome he will face many hardships and trials along the way. The thing to note is God is not distant during these difficulties. After the Lord’s visitation, the very next day more than forty zealot Jews banded together and determined even if they die in the process, they will not eat or drink until Paul is assassinated (Acts 23:12-15). What happens next is a “But God” event. Paul’s nephew heard of the plot against Paul and informed him of it. Paul then called on one of the centurions to take his nephew to the chief captain who was not only willing to listen to his story he acted upon it. The captain called together 470 armed troops to escort Paul safely to the Roman governor, Felix, at Caesarea. Paul didn’t “get lucky,” the providential God intervened in his life.
Consider this; if Paul, who was one of God’s faithful servants, went through trials such as this, what makes Believers think they are exempt? Why do people become dejected and disappointed when they encounter suffering for serving God and others (Galatians 6:9-10)? Just because you’re serving the Lord faithfully doesn’t mean you’ll receive a “get out of jail free card,” per Paul’s example.
There’s a fact that often escapes the attention of many and that is we can be certain of God’s providence because even though we all possess “free will” and exercise it often, mankind is right where God wants them to be according to His time table. So, God is not aloof, passive, or unconcerned about us and our daily circumstances. We are told to pray without ceasing are we not? If God didn’t care about us, why is this command found in the Bible (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)?
Our Apostle Paul wasn’t experiencing a “down cycle” when he was imprisoned in Rome for two years. He was right where God intended him to be and he was doing exactly what God desired. He preached Christ Crucified before Caesar and the members of his entire household. Even though you may not yet understand the importance of this historical church event, God and Paul most certainly did. Paul said, “My adverse circumstances have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel” or “My circumstances have turned out for the better contrary to the wicked desires of many.”
Here I note Paul did not say “a gospel,” as though there was more than one, he said, “the gospel.” In the early section of Acts, the gospel of the kingdom, i.e. “believe in Jesus’ name” was the gospel preached to Jew only (Acts 11:19; Matthew 3:1-2, 10:5-7), and will be preached again in the Tribulation. But now, the gospel that saves both Jew and Gentile in the Dispensation of Grace is “Believe Jesus Christ died for your sins, was buried, and rose again on the third day, according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
But here’s the thing, people have been adding to this gospel or removing parts of it since its inception. In Galatians 1:6-9, Paul warns true Believers about false gospels: I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received (from us), let him be accursed.
The gospel today is based on the finished work of Jesus Christ (alone), faith (alone), is according to the Scriptures (alone), and to the glory of God (alone). However, many false prophets and gospels have come and gone over the years. Some were somewhat biblical and some not so much. Three false gospels in vogue today come to mind. They are the emergent gospel, the prosperity gospel and the social gospel. These false gospels aren’t new they have been around for quite some time and garnering support. Why? Many people accept these teachings because the message appeals to them or as Paul said, “it tickles their ears:” For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; (2 Timothy 4:3).
Because our culture today shuns God, Jesus Christ, and the written Word, many people have no idea what sound doctrine is. Others who are fully aware are turning away forsaking the Truth for something else. My younger brother is one of them. He left the saved by grace (alone) faith and became a Seventh Day Adventist, in effect, placing himself back under the Law in hopes of pleasing God. But that religious system and others like are “outdated” in the Age of Grace; so they’re placing their trust in “old information” and ignoring Pauline doctrine.
Consequently, the majority of people today believe the Ten Commandments should have been written with a #2 pencil. Why? Many people, including Christians, believe God and the Bible are too rigid. They desire flexibility on many issues such as abortion, adultery, same sex marriage, and the list goes on and on. They’ve adopted the Burger King marketing strategy, “You can have it your way!” Please know God disagrees: There is a way which seemeth right to a person, but its end is the way to death (Proverbs 14:12).
Let’s take a brief look at the prosperity gospel a.k.a. “the name it and claim it gospel,” and the social gospel. The prosperity gospel from the “Word of Faith” movement is nothing more than a perversion of Paul’s gospel. It is known as Paul’s gospel because it was revealed to Paul by the glorified, risen Lord and no one else (Galatians 1:11-12). The prosperity gospel is a fabrication of the truth originating with man. They claim God rewards increases in faith with increases in one’s health or wealth. It conveys the meaning that health and wealth are the automatic divine right of all believing Christians, and are part and parcel of God’s salvation package. The proponents of this gospel preach the atonement of Christ Jesus includes not only forgiveness of one’s trespasses, but also the removal of poverty and sickness from their lives, if they have enough faith. Therefore their prayers become the Christian’s tool used to manipulate God.
The prosperity gospel originated as an offshoot of Pentecostalism in post-World War II America. It had its beginnings in local congregations and in tent revivals, but the movement gained a larger following through the use of radio and television, and became firmly entrenched in the 1980s with the rise of “televangelism.”
While not all prosperity gospel preachers are Pentecostal or charismatic (and most charismatic and Pentecostal Christians are not associated with the prosperity gospel), the movement is still largely connected to revivalist and charismatic churches. This has made it easier for the movement to gain traction in Africa, South America, and other areas of the world where Pentecostalism is rapidly expanding.
In light of Scripture, the prosperity gospel is fundamentally flawed. It is a false gospel because of its faulty view of the relationship between God and man. Simply put, if the prosperity gospel is true, grace is obsolete, God is irrelevant, and man’s desires are the measure of all things. Whether they’re talking about the Abrahamic covenant, the atonement, giving, faith, or prayer, prosperity teachers turn the relationship between God and man into a quid pro quo transaction.
The social gospel is a term used to describe a protestant Christian intellectual movement that came to prominence in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Those who adhered to the social gospel sought to apply Christian ethics to social problems such as alcoholism, crime, education, nutrition, poverty, slums, and war. These things were emphasized while the doctrines of sin and salvation, heaven and hell, and the coming kingdom of God were downplayed. Theologically speaking, the social gospel leaders were overwhelmingly postmillennialist, asserting Christ’s Second Coming could not happen until mankind rid itself of every social ill through human effort.
Baptist theologian Walter Rauschenbusch famously preached the social gospel in opposition to the evils of capitalism and big business and this message is being revived in the Emerging Church movement today. Thus, the social gospel is guilty of preaching a false gospel because it blames sin on cultural involvement and social structures rather than the fallen nature of man. Individual salvation is trumped by social reform.
In Paul’s day, after he left a church he planted, religious minded Judaizers would come in preaching a message other than Paul’s such as, “If you truly want to be saved, you must be circumcised and obey the Law of Moses.” This information is not only “outdated,” it is salvation based upon “works” instead of faith (alone) solely in the finished work of the cross (alone). The Lord gave His disciples a “heads up” warning in Matthew 24, in response to their questions re: the signs of His Second Coming. The very first warning Jesus gives is “Do not be deceived!” Although, this section of Scripture is directed to the folks who will go through the Tribulation and the Great Tribulation we can certainly take note of it today in the Grace Age. Satan is a liar and the master of “deception,” he continues to manipulate the truth today, so be sober minded.
Let’s go to verse 13.
So that my bonds in Christ are manifest (made known) in all the palace, and in all other places (the city of Rome). The word “bonds” is the Greek word Desmotes (des-mo’-tace), Noun Masculine, Strong’s Greek #1202, which means a captive or a prisoner. Note here Paul said, “my bonds are in Christ. Said differently, Paul was imprisoned for the gospel, but he was not a criminal he was the prisoner of Jesus Christ.
For this cause therefore have I called for you, to see you, and to speak with you: because that for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain (Acts 28:20).
For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles (Ephesians 3:1).
For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak (Ephesians 6:20).
My bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places – here Paul means to say the gospel was made known throughout the entire palace. How so? Paul was not only chained to a soldier, the soldier was literally chained to him. Wherever Paul went the soldier had to follow. In essence, Paul had a captive audience. What’s more the guard changed about every six hours or so. This means Paul preached God’s good news to at least four guards every day, once again proving coincidence is negligible regarding the plans and purpose of God. Because Paul was a prisoner the entire Praetorian Guard was captive to His message. We learn this truth in the following Bible verses:
And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening (Acts 28:33).
All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar’s household (Philippians 4:22).
Where did Paul get the information he expounded and testified about to his captive audience? Paul used what he had available, that is, the O.T. Scriptures and his unwavering faith in the God of his circumstances. He used the O.T. prophecies and expectations in both his teachings and his writings. More often than not, our Apostle Paul relied directly on the authority of Scripture to make his spiritual point.
Recalling Luke’s account of Jesus’ encounter with the two men traveling on the road to Emmaus on the morning of His resurrection, the Lord taught these men using “what had been written;” Then he said unto them, “O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?” And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself (Luke 24:25-26).
And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing (becoming) confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.
Paul’s saying, “Because of my example in duress the brethren are also proclaiming the gospel boldly.” Paul’s chains restricted his movement not his speech. He continued to preach the saving gospel to his captive audience and they in turn carried the message throughout Caesar’s palace. Upon hearing this good news, the brethren became more confident in speaking the gospel to others without fear. Here we see the providence of God once again. The risen Lord declared Paul would one day stand before Caesar, the most powerful man on the planet, and that day had arrived:
For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee (Acts 27:23-24).
This biblical account is not recorded for us in Paul’s writings or Luke’s. But remember Paul’s conversion experience. The Lord told Ananias Saul/Paul would preach “before the Gentiles and Kings” (Acts 9:15). By the way, the Emperor of Rome at this time was the tyrannical Nero, although he was relatively sane at this juncture. Although the Bible does not give us the specifics regarding the exact time and manner of Paul’s death, evidence suggests he was beheaded by the Romans under Nero’s reign in 67-68 AD.
(To be continued)
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